Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup: Light Up Your Holidays!

Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup: Light Up Your Holidays!

Posted on 12/01/2020 by Andy Waterman

There is no question that regional road trips have become extremely popular this year - with many folks focusing on what is right in their own backyard for ‘staycations.’ For plenty of regional travel ideas, check-in every Wednesday for a Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup on themed topics showcasing several destinations across the southern portion of the state. Now that Thanksgiving is over and done, it’s time to get in the Christmas spirit with some Holiday lights! This week’s blog highlights SEVERAL light displays scattered throughout the southern portion of the state.

Enjoy Mt. Vernon

While 2020 may be frightful, the lights will be delightful for the 2nd Annual Christmas Decorating Contest in Mt. Vernon presented by Mt. Vernon Convention & Visitors Bureau and Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce! This year, a business category was added in addition to residential, so check out the event on Facebook ( to find the areas decked with lights to see. While you are in Mt. Vernon, be sure to head downtown to 9th Street for Santa Claus Lane, brand new in 2020! Visit Santa in his house by the Jefferson County Courthouse and enjoy the decorations all along the street.  Downtown Mt. Vernon Development Corporation sponsored a window decorating contest for downtown businesses ( to add to the festiveness of the area. Boutique windows and restaurants are decked out as well, so make sure and stop in for some shopping and to pick up a bite to eat. Also downtown, you will want to see Central Christian Church ( at 301 N. 10th Street for their fabulous display that is set to music!




According to Buddy the Elf, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by ‘singing loud for all to hear.’ Arguably the next best way to get in the Holiday spirit, is to take in the beauty of vibrant light displays. Luckily, there are almost a dozen Christmas light displays scattered throughout our 22-county territory of ILLINOISouth! For the last 18 years, the small community of Coulterville in Randolph County has played host to one of the most impressive light displays you’ll ever see. Normally it is a walk through display held in the town’s park, but this year it has changed due to the pandemic - and it’s bigger than ever. It is now a drive-thru only display, which spans SEVEN city blocks. There are over 1.5 MILLION lights, and 500 Holiday cutouts that make up this amazing experience. The Coulterville Holiday Light Display is totally free, and opens for the season on Friday, December 4th! The American Farm Heritage Museum in Greenville plays host to their Christmas Lights Wonderland every year, and it is a sight to behold. This marks the 12th year for the event, which has changed due to the pandemic. Normally folks can walk through their display, but it is a drive-thru only event for safety reasons this year. This isn’t your typical light display, as it’s more of a Christmas scene display. Christmas Lights Wonderland is doing train rides for children on Saturdays, so that they can deliver their letters to Santa. Please visit the American Farm Heritage website to book your reservation for the train rides. You can visit this display nightly from 5pm to 9pm, now through December 31st. It is free to the public, but donations are accepted. To experience a great display and also help a fantastic cause at the same time, a trip to Carmi is a must. Carmi’s Christmas Lights of Hope can be found at the White County Fairgrounds, and is open 12/4 to 12/6, 12/11 to 12/13, 12/18 to 12/20 and Christmas Eve as well. The display can be seen from 6 to 9pm each of those nights, and proceeds from the display go towards Carmi Christmas Elves Inc. The non-profit’s mission is to provide support, both financial and otherwise to local youth and poverty-stricken residents in the community. 


Southernmost Illinois

Check out the new Gumdrop Drive in Anna, a quaint town located in the heart of Southern Illinois within minutes of Interstate 57 and Interstate 24. Surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills of the Shawnee National Forest.   Enjoy this new route to drive along to see some decorations and lights. All of the trees and light poles are decorated by various sponsors,  a well as downtown storefronts and the city park buildings.



Visit Effingham

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Effingham, Illinois! Each year, the Effingham Convention and Visitors Bureau lights up the holiday season with our Wonderland in Lights drive-thru display and our larger-than-life, walk-thru holiday displays in Downtown Effingham. Wonderland in Lights, a drive-thru light display, features a variety of lighted holiday scenes and characters. Be sure to tune your radio dial to 90.7 FM to listen to festive tunes as you cruise through the display. Santa visits the Wonderland in Lights every Saturday to greet children and visitors who drive past. The lights run from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Hours are from 5 to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Our holiday light displays in Downtown Effingham also run from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day and provide the perfect photo op for your annual Christmas card! Visit the historical Effingham County Courthouse lawn and see magnificent displays, including a dazzling walk-thru ornament, present and star, as well as a towering teddy bear, a sleigh equipped with reindeer, and our newest addition… a beautiful, animated Christmas tree! Both Wonderland in Lights and our downtown light displays are free to visit, but donations are welcome and help to support these projects.



It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Williamson County! The holiday lights and decorations are on display and we invite you to take a drive through our most radiant destinations! The homes on Reis Lane in Herrin have brought out their biggest and brightest displays for a lovely drive through experience! On Friday and Saturday evenings in December, Spread S’more Love will be set up selling their tasty treats while you enjoy the lights! The City of Marion is hosting a home lights contest and tour. Homes all around town are shining bright and spreading Christmas cheer. Just follow the route on their website for an evening of holiday fun for the whole family! The Yost Family Lights are a can't miss stop on the tour! Their annual eccentric and extravagant drive through display will make you feel like a kid again. The Marion and Herrin Downtown areas are also decorated with lights, trees, and more! Take a socially distanced stroll or a drive through to see these beautifully decorated historic areas! For more socially distanced holiday events and activities, check out our website calendar! Happy Holidays from visitSI!

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